STTA decision the right one, SportSG
After two successful outings in 2008 and 2012, the Singapore table tennis women returned home without a medal from this year's Rio Olympics.
After some soul searching and serious consultation with its stakeholders, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) dropped a bombshell yesterday, announcing it would part company with current women's world No. 6, Feng Tianwei, its leading paddler for some time now, as it plans ahead for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and beyond.
Then came word from Singapore Sports Institute director Toh Boon Yi, who said SportSG would find a way to work with the STTA and Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Feng's targets and milestones.
That hardly sounds as if she has been axed and it does look as if the two parties are not on the same page in this instance and I find it strange.
Especially when the STTA has kept SportSG informed of all the details, and its plan to move forward.
With three Olympic medals in her possession and a string of other trophies and triumphs, the news came as a shock, especially when Feng reached the quarter-finals of the women's singles at the Rio Games and the women reached the semi-finals in the team event.
It didn't help, though, that the 30-year-old hardly lived up to her No. 2 seeding at this year's Olympics.
It didn't help that she couldn't find any answers whenever she faced Japanese opposition.
While the decision was made with the future in mind, I understand that Feng has also persistently flouted rules within the association and challenged authority and the STTA felt enough was enough.
No one is bigger than the sport and that is the signal the STTA has sent with its latest move.
It is the right stance, which makes me wonder why SportSG has decided not to take a united front.
And even seems to want to continue to back Feng.
The clash involving Feng and teammate Yu Mengyu with then-women's coach Jing Junhong a year ago was unseemly.
Feng's constant coaching of her teammates at the Olympics in August, over actual coach Chen Zhibin, also raised eyebrows.
Surely, if a player forgets that success is borne out of discipline, focus and the need to work as a team, then the STTA has to eventually make the right decision, and SportSG must back its national sports association (NSA).
In such an instance, an NSA must be allowed to act independently, otherwise the wrong signal will be sent and the reverberations felt throughout Singapore sport.
Feng was a fearless 22-year-old who may even have upstaged her experienced teammates as the Singapore women's table tennis team ended 48 years of hurt by winning silver at the 2008 Olympics.
She had a spring in her step at the Beijing Games, she attacked relentlessly and there was a hunger about her.
I watched her again on the Olympic stage in Rio in August and Feng looked a shell of the player from eight years ago.
There was hardly any eagerness or excitement about her play as Feng suffered even at the hands of two Japanese teenagers.
The STTA has decided to turn to its youngsters and intend to pull out all the stops to get them ready for the next two Olympic cycles.
It is time for all parties to unite and close one chapter, and focus on the next era in Singapore table tennis.